25 December 1988 Doctor key player in peace process

BY JOE DENNIS Managing Editor

Ephrata physician Dr. Mohammad Said has taken his plea for moderation in the approach to peace in the Middle East from platform discussions before the state Democratic Party all the way to the United Nations and is optimistic the message is at last being heeded. “For the first time in 40 years I can see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said of the Middle East peace process he has become increasingly involved in. “For the first time there is a genuine move to accept Israel with the Palestinians claiming only 20 percent of what used to be our country,” he said, calling for equal concessions from the Israeli side.

Dr. Said, although quick to stress that medicine and not politics is still his chosen field, speaks from first hand experience as a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization delegation to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in Geneva when he assess the prospects for peace in the Middle East. Palestinian by birth, Dr. Said has been an American citizen since 1974 and is active in the Democratic Party where he serves as a member of the national platform committee. It is that position, combined with his ties to the West Bank and Gaza through family and friends, that has allowed a family practitioner from a small eastern Washington community to participate in the search for a lasting Middle Eastern peace at the very highest level. “I have been told I have a gift to communicate and I want to use that to help bridge the gap between the Palestinian Political Council and the American political mainstream,” Dr. Said noted, explaining his involvement in Democratic party politics combined with his Palestinian connections have allowed him to be effective in the Middle East dialogue. He received a personal invitation from Yasser Arafat to join the PLO delegation to the general assembly, the only American to be involved, the Ephrata doctor said.

Dr. Said pointed out he has friends and relatives in high positions with the PLO and is a personal friend of Arafat’s brother, Faihi, a physician he worked with in 1970 while he was doing research for his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Madrid on sanitary and social problems of Palestinian refugees living in the Arab countries. “Involvement in Palestinian politics is nothing new, I’ve been here all my life, I didn’t just pop out of nowhere,” Dr. Said explained, noting that up until the past two years his involvement has been low key. In addition to attending the UN General Assembly in Geneva, Dr. Said was a speaker at a PLO legislative session in Algiers in November and has also has spoken to both Jewish and Arab groups in the United States in an effort to gain support for his plea for a moderate approach that would see concessions from both sides. Dr. Said termed his membership in the PLO delegation an honor, but more important feels his views, which were initially outlined in a state Democratic resolution he worked on drafting calling for a Palestinian homeland and recognition of Israel’s right to exist, were taken seriously. Dr. Said delivered a major address at the meeting in Algiers and was happy to find the majority of the council shared those views, he said. “I was very proud because I found democracy in full swing at that meeting. Everything was debated and voted on which is a rarity in that part of the Middle East,” he said. “I came from Algiers very encouraged.”

At Geneva Dr. Said attempted to continue pushing toward a peaceful resolution and said he is confident progress was made. “I transmitted verbal messages between the American delegation and Arafat and was pleased many of the points to covered in his press conference were contained in my Middle East peace resolution,” he said. “At this point I have no doubt that a dialogue will start because what the U.S. asked of Arafat, he did,” he said. Yet despite confidence in progress, Dr. Said expressed concern more is being asked of the Palestinians than of Israel.